Third Test preview: England v West Indies

By leaving James Anderson out of the equation, England have at least given themselves something to play for at Edgbaston.

By leaving James Anderson out of the equation, England have at least given themselves something to play for at Edgbaston.

While vast and varied opinion has surrounded the omission of the seamer, it has opened the door for Graeme Onions and Steven Finn, if not both should Stuart Broad also be benched.

Whether it's one or two changes in personnel, tweaking a winning combination must be vindicated, and herein lies the challenge.

What, exactly, will England consider a success in Birmingham? Damp weather is bound to regularly interrupt proceedings, but a five-day victory for a series whitewash amid the inclement conditions is the least Andrew Strauss and company will demand.

The performance of the back-up seamer/s – and Tim Bresnan as a one-off attack leader – is almost greater than the main plot. England have far more superior opposition than the West Indies coming up. Anderson and Broad need genuine support, not just compatriots in nets, against South Africa and India.

Edgbaston is, effectively, the last chance for the incumbents to prove their worth in competitive first-class cricket. Australia's limited-overs tour is another, to an extent, but there is no substitute for five days of Test match cricket.

All and sundry know what Finn can deliver, even if he has been short of game time recently. The one-dayers in UAE brought him to the fore. If England don't rest Broad, perhaps it's Onions that should get the green light for Anderson's berth. He hasn't seen a Test match since 2010. There are others banging at the door for his spot in the squad. Is he the post-injury article we witnessed in the Ashes and against South Africa? Only time in the England whites will tell.

The batting ranks, meanwhie, remain solid. Andrew Strauss has answered his critics to the extent of back-to-back centuries at Lord's and Trent Bridge, Ian Bell has regained enough confidence and, really, it's only Kevin Pietersen who will need a hefty showing at Edgbaston. His Test form will be under greater scrutiny now that he has ditched the limited-overs fold. At least one big knock, and soon, is needed to justify his one-dayer retirement.

Changes to the West Indian XI will not be as contentious. Kemar Roach, back home and ruing a shin injury, will surely be replaced by Tino Best in a like-for-like, pace-for-pace replacement.

It's the spin berth, though, that intrigues. Sunil Narine, hot on the heels of a lucrative and fruitful stint with the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, is set for a debut at Edgbaston. Shane Shillingford was ineffective at Trent Bridge, and won't get a second chance.

The Windies would like to keep their batting order the same, but the ongoing failure of Kirk Edwards can no longer be overlooked. The vice-captain has just 20 runs to show for eight innings this tour. With nothing to lose, really, Assad Fudadin or Narsingh Deonarine must crack the nod ahead of Edwards this time around.

Coach Ottis Gibson waxed lyrical upon his arrival in England that, although the tourists would put up a good fight in the Tests, the limited-overs leg would be their biggest chance to upstage the hosts. That ambition remains, but equally, a series whitewash could damage moral irreparably regardless of Chris Gayle's impending return.

<b>Key Men</b><br><i>England:</i> If Broad joins Anderson on the sidelines, <B>Tim Bresnan's</B> role becomes bigger than ever. From the question of selection at the start of the series to Man of the Match at Trent Bridge, the right-arm seamer has a chance to lead the attack in resounding fashion.

<i>West Indies:</i> Roach's absence leaves a gaping hole in the attack. One that <B>Darren Sammy</B> must fill as first-change seamer. The Windies captain is presented with the ideal chance to silence his critics, provided he gets it right with the ball.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><BR>May 2011: Second Test: England won by nine wickets at Trent Bridge<BR>May 2011: First Test: England won by five wickets at Lord's<BR>May 2009: Second Test: England won by an innings and 83 runs at Chester-le-Street<br>May 2009: First Test: England won by 10 wickets at Lord's<br>March 2009: Fifth Test: Match drawn in Trinidad

<b>Prediction</b><br>It will go the full five days, largely because of the wet weather on the cards, but again the contest will prove a bridge to far for the patchy Windies units. England for the series whitewash, indeed.

Online betting firm <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Sky Bet</b></a> have the West Indies at 10/1 in the <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>betting</b></a> for the third Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting</b></a>.

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>England:</i> Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn.

<i>West Indies:</i> Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell, Assad Fudadin, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Denesh Ramdin (wicketkeeper), Darren Sammy (captain), Ravi Rampaul, Tino Best, Sunil Narine.

<b>Dates:</b> 7-11 June<br><b>Morning session:</b> 11:00-13:00 (10:00-12:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:40-15:40 (12:40-14:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 16:00-18:00 (15:00-17:00 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Kumar Dharmasena and Tony Hill<br><B>Third umpire:</B> Aleem Dar<BR><b>Match referee:</b> Roshan Mahanama